Fail: One Dimensional Design


When it comes to workplace storage what features are vital vs. expendable?

I suppose it depends on who you ask.

Think of workplace storage items–desks, file cabinets, supply cabinets, employee lockers, IT carts, HR records, petty cash drawers, key cabinets maintenance and tool storage, cleaning supplies, and the list goes on.

Those who design office storage have a tough challenge. I’ve seen the range of storage designs earlier this year from the industry’s largest show, Neocon, where we exhibited our own products.

Much of what I saw was one-dimensional with a focus on looks (or sizzle, flash, wow factor…pick your design term) alone. Creativity and catching one’s eye is important, of course. Yet, why stop there?

Why create a beautiful looking technology desk with sit/stand capabilities and then put a $2.00 chinese lock on the drawers (if there is any lock at all) in the unit? Those drawers are where a user may keep their cell phone, wallet, purse, medications, personal employee papers like pay stubs, performance reviews, or confidential project records.

I mean this beautiful furniture with $200 adjustable lifts and ergonomic monitor arms costing at least as much, with live edge work surfaces all makes so much sense for someone who spends 40-60 hours a week using it–until it comes to how we fail to secure what really matters to that worker. It often seems that security is where the designer bailed and turned it over to the Purchasing Department to pick whatever lock and mechanism is cheapest and most convenient to install.

Yet many would suggest, myself included, that all the beauty in an office product is very one-dimensional if your workplace furniture components fail to allow workers a sense of security.

Don’t get me wrong, with workplace violence, terrorism, and all the attention those subjects have garnered over the last 20 years, improvements in general workplace safety have been made. That is, buildings and workspaces (rooms within buildings) have become generally more secure. Yet, workplace furniture has not. If anything, it has become more accessible and vulnerable to security breaches with the advent of open offices and hot-desking arrangements.

Now, painting with a broad brush is never good, of course. Yes, there are some designers and designs that do put security on a level playing field with usability, ergonomics, creativity, and visual design. That is great to see–it just happens far too infrequently.

Lest you feel I am singling out furniture designers alone–not so. I also blame my own field, furniture lock manufacturers, for the current security weakness in furniture design.

For all the relatively recent applications that warrant higher security in office furniture, my industry has not done a great job at being a resource to connect locking solutions to address those applications–issues like HIPAA, BYOD, hot-desking, open offices, locking technology like electronics, blue-tooth, audit trails, and user flexibility in the security of personal belongings in the workplace. Instead of waiting for designers to inquire about how locks can improve a worker’s experience and benefit workplace furniture, my industry ought to be suggesting ideas, considerations, and solutions to workplace furniture security challenges.

I’ll keep reaching out and speaking out on ideas and solutions to improve security within workplace furnishings. Partnering with diversified designers is something I thoroughly enjoy. Working together is the best way to ensure workplaces have functional, beautiful, creative–and secure–furnishings. Let’s connect!

Photo credit here